Review of How to Be Here by Rob Bell

Some books entertain you. Other books teach you something. Really good books do both. Then there are the rare books–the tomes that change your life. I just read one of those.

Click to see How to Be Here on Amazon.

Click to see How to Be Here on Amazon.

I haven't always been Science Mike. In fact, Science Mike is a relatively new thing in my life.  In the first half of 2012, I hadn't written a book, hosted any podcasts, or done any speaking tours. In fact, I'd never done any of the things I do today to make a living.

I was a hard worker, sure. You could even say I was a workaholic. But, I was miserable. After a life of technical work, I found myself in the creative work of advertising, and it scared me to death. I felt a constant sense of dread, like I was going to let everyone down and then watch my family starve.

I imagined my coworkers in meetings. One would say, "Whatever happened to Mike?" And the other would look down at the desk with a look of melancholy before speaking softly, "He died of hunger, along with his poor wife and children. Some people just aren't meant for the ad business."

I'm kidding, but not by much.

And then I met Rob Bell. If you know me, you know that meeting represented a serious spiritual awakening. But what you may not know is I went back to those little conferences Rob put on several times. There was something in the air beyond the my questions about who God was. It resonated in my bones.

Rob described creative work unlike anyone I'd ever heard. Rob called out the overwhelming sense of shame so many people feel about their identity, or what they may have to offer the world as creative work. He told us how to face that shame and find the determination to start anyway.

And then he told us how he does his work. The process of scraping insights out of the world around us, assembling them, and speaking the truth of what we found to other people.

So, I tried it. I stared writing every day. I blogged. Despite incredible fear and feelings of being a phony, I collaborated with people with far more talent and experience than I had. I started podcasting, and every week I commit the simple, yet terrifying act of telling people what I'm learning about our world.

4 years worth of that writing recently turned into a book that I'm incredibly proud of.

I've often wished I could share what Rob told me with others. All of it. I wish other people could know that the little voice inside them that begs to come out, the part of them that says they should write, paint, sculpt, play, whatever, anything speaks truth. That they have a gift to share with the world.

Now I can. Because Rob assembled all the thoughts and insights I learned into a book called How to Be Here. I'm telling you the truth when I say the words in the book made me who I am today, that without them I would probably be a computer consultant in Tallahassee who blogs about atheism.

If you've ever dreamed that you could do something, but have been afraid to try, this book is for you.

If you play if safe instead of taking the big risk because of white-knuckled fear, this book is for you.

If you want to start living a life that you create with intention, instead of falling out of bed only to fall back into it, this book is for you.

I can't offer a higher recommendation. This work changed my life, and I believe it can change yours too.


Christopher Nolan just released a movie called Interstellar. It's science fiction film steeped in the big questions of life and some pressing ideas in the sciences. After a few hundred of you sent me questions about the science behind the film, I headed to the theater so I could answer your questions.

My friend Rob Carmack did a five question interview with me about Interstellar. If you've only got a few minutes, that's the way to do. We also did a special edition of The Liturgists Podcast to discuss the science and faith themes found in the film. The podcasts runs just over an hour, so we cover your questions in detail.

Be warned, both are full of spoilers and plot details.

Book Review: The Zimzum of Love by Rob and Kristen Bell

After fifteen amazing years, I didn't expect any marriage book to show me any radical new truths about my wife. We're husband and wife, but also best friends. We've read our share of marriage books, and I thought we were already masters at this whole marriage gig.

Jenny and I read The Zimzum of Love by Rob & Kristen Bell together while driving home from Miami. Jenny read, I listened, and a sudden, heightened sense of connection grew between us. Somehow, the metaphor of Zimzum and the stories Kristen and Rob share throughout the book drew us closer together. I saw our marriage from Jenny's perspective in a way I never saw before.

All of which raises one question: what is Zimzum?

In ancient Hebrew theology, tzimtzum is the way God created the Universe. Essentially, God drew back and left space for the world to exist, and creation happened where God made room for it. That all sounds a bit like the Infinite Cosmic Inflation theory of the multiverse to me, but Rob and Kristen never mentioned it.

So, the zimzum of love is the space two people create between each other. I found that image helpful. In a marriage, there's "me", there's "you", and there's "us". I've always noticed that "us" has a unique and distinct character--it's more than a sum of "me" and "you." In this "us", this "zumzim", actions and feelings are amplified dramatically.

After this mystical opener, The Zimzum of Love explores the nature of marriage and how to best maintain it. These thoughts and practices are grouped into for chapters: responsive, dynamic, exclusive, and sacred.

  • Responsive because our relationship with our spouse amplifies everything we do and feel.
  • Dynamic because our relationship is always changing as our lives change.
  • Exclusive because our relationship has to be protected and private.
  • Sacred because our relationship has an effect on the rest of the world.

There are discussion questions, too. Lots of them. We're nowhere near done with this part of the book--there are a lot and they provoke deep dialog.

The Zimzum of Love is remarkable in that it covers profound, deep insights about our most important relationship in a simple, accessible way. I think this book is best read as a couple, and the inclusion of both Rob and Kristen's voices help it accommodate masculine and feminine sensibilities.

I enjoyed reading it, and I feel closer to my wife as a result.

You can by The Zimzum of Love on Amazon.